The Fayette Citizen-News Page

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

McIntosh prepares for return of the golf carts


McIntosh High School’s parking crunch may get some immediate relief if legislation to restore golf cart driving privileges to teens under age 16 gains passage in the state Senate, as expected.

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland’s proposal to restore Peachtree City’s ordinance allowing unlicensed drivers to operate the carts was approved by the House on Thursday, 169-0. It now goes to the state Senate for consideration, where passage is almost assured.

The governor’s office has also indicated it won’t hold up the bill, meaning the law change could be in place before the session ends in March.

The ban on unlicensed drivers was ordered in June after an appeals court ruling suggested the city’s ordinance unconstitutional. The crackdown affected hundreds of the city’s senior citizens, many of whom gave up driving cars in lieu of the slower, more gentle golf carts.

But the more obvious impact was seen at McIntosh High, where a 200-space parking lot designed exclusively for the carts went from overflowing last spring to near empty when students returned in the fall. Before the change, 15-year-olds with a learner’s permit could drive the electric vehicles around town unsupervised, and many McIntosh ninth and tenth graders took advantage of that perk.

Principal Tracie Fleming said last week the school is making plans to welcome the carts back

Since fall, most of the golf cart spaces have been reopened to cars. Construction of the school’s new gym ate up more than 200 student car spaces, and though relief was sought by expanding the faculty and visitor lot in front of the building, McIntosh is still about 100 spaces short of what it had last year.

School system personnel, counting on the usual number of students commuting to campus by golf cart, didn’t think the shortfall would have so great an impact.

Even though some spaces will be restored when the gym is completed in December, Fleming said the campus will still end up with less parking than it had before. But the students have adjusted well, she said.

“They’ve been great, really understanding,” said Fleming, who marked her first anniversary at the school this month. She came from Starr’s Mill High School last year, replacing Greg Stillions when he was appointed principal of Whitewater High.

Fleming has more work cut out for her once the gym is finished in about a year. This summer, workers will tear out the school’s kitchen and make it into more dining room space, while a new kitchen takes over part of the present cafeteria. That project will also take over the present chorus room, which will move to the present band room, which moves to the black box theater behind the vocational building.

It’s all necessary, Fleming explained, to bring McIntosh’s facilities up to par with the other high schools in the county. Opened in 1982, it’s the county’s operating oldest high school facility.

Eventually, the present gym will become a fine arts center but students likely won’t take advantage of that until fall 2006, when the present sophomores are seniors.